Someone Like You


“I’ve lost it, that’s the truth. I can’t write songs any more. But it’s a deadly secret. I’m trusting you not to tell anyone Jamie. I mean it.”

You’re bound to have heard of Samantha. You haven’t? Maybe you never watch TV or listen to pop songs on the radio. Samantha – she only ever uses that name – produces pop songs that are so catchy and simple you’re convinced you could write them yourself, only you know that you couldn’t. Remember Katie Perry’s I kissed a girl, how incredibly memorable it was? Some singer songwriters have this uncanny gift of creating something special and different and interesting that you love listening to and you can’t forget. Adele is another. Find me one person who doesn’t like Someone like you, and they’re probably deaf.

So when I got a call from Samantha’s agent, then the star herself, telling me that she’d bought ‘Fireflies’, once the seaside home of the deceased thirties singer/songwriter, Phyllis Dexter, and wanted me to arrange some renovations, I was delighted.

Phyllis Dexter was the ‘Adele’ of her day, the 1930s. She was thought of in the same way as Edith Piaf, Billie Holliday and others, a woman with phenomenal charisma in her performances as a singer, who was also a gifted songwriter. And her beautiful house ‘Fireflies’, high up on a cliff on the Suffolk Cost, was where she had composed many of her iconic hits.

“The thing is, that I’ve always loved Phyllis,” Samantha went on, talking in a sad desultory way as she sat across the table in the North London café where we’d arranged to meet. “And I thought that maybe living in her house, might help me to get close to her. It was all my lovely boyfriend Hamish’s idea – he bought it as a surprise, telling me he hoped I might regain my muse, by absorbing the atmosphere of the place.”


I met ‘lovely’ Hamish a few days later, in the main sitting room of Fireflies. He was very tall and slim, dressed in a pure white suit, and had a habit of avoiding your eyes when he spoke to you. Samantha wasn’t there, was in London on business. I hadn’t been invited to sit down, and he was standing in front of the grand piano, idly picking out a tune as we spoke.

“Look, Mr Dark,” Hamish said, after boasting about his prestigious job in international finance for ten minutes. “I picked you as the architect for a reason.”

“A reason?”

“Yes.” He turned to face me. “ I wanted you, because I heard you’re interested in ghosts, psychic phenomena, nonsense like that.”

“What’s that got to do with my abilities as a conservation architect?”

“Ah well, I gather Samantha’s told you about her big problem? Her inability to write songs anymore? Well I’ve found a professional singer who gives performances as a Phyllis Dexter lookalike, and she’s agreed to give a performance at Fireflies one night. She’s going to dress as Phyllis and sing in the half light, so we can hopefully persuade Samantha that her spirit ‘lives on’ here. I think if she ‘saw’ her heroine Phyllis as a ghost, it just might kick-start her creative juices.”

Do you cringe, as I do, when somebody says ‘creative juices’?

“This is Phyllis’s piano,” he went on. “We managed to get it at auction in the States. I bought it as a surprise for Samantha when we move in next week.” He paused for me to gush with admiration. “So Jamie, can you give me any tips on how we should stage our ghost? Entrances and exits, lighting effects, how long she should sit there and sing, that kind of thing?”

“Sorry. Of course I hope that Samantha regains her song-writing ability. But trying to ‘stage’ the appearance of a ghost is a ridiculous idea that won’t work.”

“So you won’t help me?”


“Right, forget it then. There are plenty of other architects.”

I walked out of the house without another word. I was disappointed, of course, for I’d loved Fireflies on sight, and Samantha had seemed as if she’d be a very nice person to work with. But if making a fool of her, by falling in with Hamish’s crazy embarrassing idea, was part of the deal, then I was having nothing to do with it.

A month later I got a call from Samantha. She invited me round to Fireflies to discuss the renovation work, as if my row with her boyfriend hadn’t happened.

She was like a different woman from the diffident unhappy soul I’d talked to in London. Now she seemed to be on top of the world, smiling and welcoming, inviting me into that same lovely huge sitting room that overlooked the sea.

“It’s come back!” she told me, sitting in front of the grand piano, while I sat on the sofa nearby. “Honestly Jamie, it’s wonderful! I think Phyllis’s spirit actually does live on here! I came down one night,  just after we’d moved in. I was on my own here, I couldn’t sleep, and when I came into this room, I saw her! I saw Phyllis sitting right here, playing the piano and singing to herself quietly, just for a few seconds, and then she disappeared. But in that moment I felt a real connection with her spirit, as if she knew what I was going through. I felt a sort of love coming from her to me, I really did! And in the morning, when I sat in the same place, a melody came into my head. And suddenly it was just like it used to be, one melody after another came flooding out, words and music came together and I can write songs again! Just like that! It’s wonderful!”



So it seemed that Hamish’s grand plan had worked.

Samantha was brimming with ideas about what she wanted to do with the house, and I spent the rest of the morning going through the plans with her and arranging what was to be done.

Next day I had a call from Hamish.

“Hello Jamie. Listen, I’m awfully sorry we fell out the other day. Samantha likes you, and we had quite a row about it. And she insisted you were the best man for the job, and I realised that when I told you to push off that I was just angry with you because you hated my idea. No hard feelings, eh?”

“No, of course not.” I remembered that Hamish, an international banker, only lived with Samantha at weekends, since his heavy work schedule took him all over the world.

“And isn’t it great news that she’s writing songs again?” he continued enthusiastically. “She told me yesterday on the phone, I can’t wait to see her. And Jamie, look, I have to apologise to you.”


“Yes. You were quite right. After talking to you I realised how ridiculous my idea of faking Phyllis’s spirit was, so I abandoned it. After all, no one really believes in ghosts, do they?”

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